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Mark Bowden Education. (2012) 'The Finish The Killing of Osama Bin Ladin.'

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United States 10, Iraq 7, Pakistan 7, Afghanistan 6, Cia 6, America 4, Obama 4, Bush 4, Us 3, Navy 3, Washington 3, Pentagon 3, Taiwan 2, Ben Rhodes 2, Usa 2, D.c. 2, Invading Iraq 2, Mr. Bowden 1, Joe Biden 1, John Brennan Whoing 1,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Mark Bowden  Education.  (2012) 'The  
   Finish The Killing of Osama Bin Ladin.'  

    November 22, 2012
    11:00 - 12:00am EST  

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grant? >> we are getting the hook over here. it is a very apt question. is a hard one to answer and i will back off on it because the times were entirely different. the challenge confronting every president are almost unique to those times. grant will never be considered one of the great presidents. the deck was stacked against him. what would abe lincoln do today? no idea. what would franklin roosevelt do today? the times are so different. one of the things you learn studying presidential history, american history is greatness is not intrinsic on individuals. in confluence of individuals and context, the president's who
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will lead us out of the mess we are in today probably is the president who would not be equipped to deal with the civil war or reconstruction. that might be an unsatisfactory answer but it is the .. >> thank you. thank you for coming. i did a tv interview├▒m/ earlie, and they put makeup on me.
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i debated whether or not to wash it off or not, but i decided to look fabulous for you. [laughter] i usually don't spend much time reading, but i wanted to read a short passage from the beginning of the book because i think it summarizes one of the themes of the story. lieutenant general michael flynn who now heads of the u.s. defense intelligence agency has said that information and intelligence are the fire and maneuver of the 21st century, and those of you who are familiar with war fighting methods in iraq and afghanistan know how important this has become, and i'll talk more about that as i go along, but i want to read you about a passage about a raid in iraq called the sinjar raid where special
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operatives seized the computer equivalent of the roladex. it tracked 500 al-qaeda suicide bombers or terrorists who had filtered into iraq through syria, and the possession of this data base of 5 # 00 individuals who were recruitedded to blow themselves up or arrange for terrorist attacks was critical in the effort to take al-qaeda apart inside of iraq, and i'll read you what i wrote here in the prologue. the motherload of documents seized in what has become known as the sinjar raid illustrated the point nicely. the point made by lieutenant general flynn. in the six years after the 9/11
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attacks, the u.s. military and intelligence communities representing a wide variety of agencies, large and small, those notorious and those secret, had been collaborating on an unprecedented capability for crushing terrorist networks. in addition to the skills of the talented special operators, the effort used super computers and custom software, forward deployment of skilled analysts, the ability to turn just about every kind of intel into searchable data whether tips or documents from old-fashioned human spy networks, transcripts of detainees in interrogations, logs of electronic surveillance, monitoring, communications between cell phones and computers, or the images and readings gathered by drones hovering high and silent for days, weeks, months, and even years. with an enormous data base
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consistenting of these fragments, few related, computers find links that previously would have been hidden. a bank account shared by an official in an al-qaeda recruit. a street address visited by two known suicide bombers on two separate occasions. a snap shot from the wallet of a slain american soldier on the hard drive of a suspected terrorist master. the computer instantly draws threads that otherwise would be random and disconnected. threads are drawn eliminating secret network. when connections are made, the special operatives know where and when to hit next. in this case, stanley mcchrystal took the surprising step of declassifying all the material and turning it over to west point's combating terrorism
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center so analysts from a variety of disciplines could take a crack at it, and general mcchrystal will tell you he feels that data and some of the analysis produced while working with that data was instrumental in the success they had in 2008 in decapitateing operations in iraq. violence levels dropped 80% over the next eight to nine months and they've remained lower today than they were before we invaded in 2003. i'll read you one more quick passage. prevailing demands tools. the attacks on america on september 11th, 2001, challenged a long standing premise of the national defense. bin laden and extremist
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movement, al-qaeda, posed a new kind of threat, a global network of well-funded, clever, suicidal killers with no fixed address. the nation's vast arsenal, its nuclear stock fires, imcomparable air force, army, navy, and the bureaucratic structure for global surveillance, spying, and intelligence analysis was designed primarily to detour, attack. who would dare when the response would be swift, fatal, and unstoppable? what if the attacks came from nowhere? what then? this was the problem posed by 9/11. the answer was information. finding the enemy has been the most basic challenges of war. all al-qaeda did was up the level of difficulty. they livedded, worked, scattered all over the world using communications to stay linked. they use of pseudonyms and
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tricks of spy craft, how was the new enemy to be found? the take down shows how. six years after the attacks, deep two two wars, haunted by the defiant image of a free bin laden, the united states of america had one strong consolation. it had figured out exactly how to fight back. when we talk about the raid that killed bin laden, i think that's the real story. that's how they developed the capability to find people very difficult to find, and targeting them and finishing them. in 2003, when he was still a state senator in illinois obama
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gave a now famous speech in chicago at an anti-war rally. the rally was against the pending invasion of iraq and obama was there to speak against invading iraq, but he was uncomfortable because this was an antiwar rally and familiar anti-war types from the chicago area who show up at every anti-war rally, and he felt out of place because even though he was opposed to invading iraq, the point of the speech was he was not against all wars, some were necessary, just, and cited instances in history where he thought that was the case and felt the appropriate target for the united states were the leaders of al-qaeda, the men who planned the attacks on this country in 2001, and he said i would take up arms against
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al-qaeda myself. well, at that point, maybe he had dreams then in 2003 of someday becoming president of the united states, but he could not have envaitioned -- envisioned how. to the extent that no american president had perhaps president bush at the end of his last term. you know, the president of the united states is directly involved in the fight against terrorism and against, in particular, al-qaeda. to a degree, i think, he could never have exactly imagined when he said he would like to take up arms himself. now, when you craft a story, i've been writing stories for my whole life, and i think when you start working as a reporter, you go out and you do a lot of reporting, and writing the story is often as simple as emptying
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out on the page all things you discovered. you gather information, and them you try to organize and present all that information. once you're kind of past that stage, you begin to realize that the art of telling stories that i do demands you digest all material that you've gatheredded and you think in terms of how to tell it. you ask yourself probably the most important question which is what is the story about? you ask yourself who are the central characters in the story, and what are the central actions that move the story forward? you ask yourself questions like, you know, where does the story begin? where does this story end, and most people think about writing true stories or history seems like you don't have to make decisions for yows, but, in
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fact, you do. history does not start and stop at any one point, it's a con continuum, and you as a writer or historian have to make decisions about, okay, what is the story that i'm talking out of this history, where does the story end and what does the story really about? that's what i tried to accomplish in this book. to me, the story began in 2001. in the first chapter of the book, i relate the story of 9/11 through the eyes of a number of those who will be in on this story in the end including barack obama, including michael morale, who on september 11th was president bush's national security briefer. he was traveling with him down
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in florida, had given the morning briefing when all hell broke loose, spent the day flying around with the president, and that gave me a unique perspective on how that day was perceived by the president of the united states, and in his inner circle. another main character in the story is admiral bill mcraven who was a navy seal commander in 2001 who had a severe parachuting accident. he broke his pelvis, and he was really all broke p up, and -- broken up, and he was in the hospital, bored, had them move the bed into his home in san diego, and so he was literally in his bed, in the hospital bed at home watching on television as the attacks of september 11th took place, and he laid there, a guy who spent his young life training and serving with a seal
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unit who rose to the point of commanding seal team 6, and he knew watching this attack on television that the united states would be going to war and his unit and men would be going to war, and he had basically been left out. he was not in any condition, even to walk at that point. it's interesting to see where he ends up ten years later. we began the story an september 1 # 1th because i think, you know, for my purposes, that's where this all starts. to me, the raid that killed bin laden is fascinating and as exciting as that was, that's the last 40 # minutes of the ten-yearlong story. the story, the most remarkable piece of it, i think, is the evolution of the capability of finding people, targeting people, and all that's gone into it, and then, in particular, because the story of finding bin
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laden illustrates how this all works, how bin laden was found. you know, people will ask me why did it take ten years to find bin laden, and the answer is it's more remarkable they did find him. if you want to hide in today's world, cut yourself off completely from the telecommunications grid. you never call home to talk to anybody, any member of your family or anybody in your past. you move to one spot, in this case, the upper two floors of a house, and you never leave. that's literally what bin laden did. when you think about that, here's a guy living -- he never left that compound. there were people living on that compound who did not know that bin laden was living upstairs. that's how deep he buried himself. his only communication was with his followers, his suicide
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bombers board nants through mail drops basically, courier, letters, and the courier who lived there took it and gave it to another and another, and they passed it until it was at its intended target. that was the guy who was doing everything right in terms of not being found. as i said, i think it's truly remarkable they found him. the story of getting there is this remarkable fusion of intelligence and special operations that i described in that brief reading from the prologue, and i talked about that in a lot more detail in the book. i mean, this doesn't bear directly on finding bin laden himself, but i found fascinating this concept of, i don't know if you heard of the concept of getting inside the information cycle of your enemy.
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have any of you heard that? it used to be, say in iraq, you launch a special operations raid at a target, and you either kill or capture him. within hours, everyone in that person's circle, everyone in the network knows that they've been compromised, and they are gone. you know, they trash all of their cell phones and hard drives, and they vanish. if you can get to them, those secondary targets before they scatter, you've gotten inside the information cycle of your enemy. how do you do that? well, you do that by linking operators in the field with this computer data base, with state of the art software to search the data base, draw lines, and make connections so you can sometimes, within minutes of picking up a cell phone from a target house that you've just hit, you know, not only who all the primary contacts of that
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target were, but quickly after that, where they are, and by that, i don't mean generally where they are, but i mean where they are right now. you can go out and hit them before they are aware that the primary target has been hit. that is the basic strategy that enabled special operations to begin dismantling terrorist organizations inside iraq, and that's what we are trying to do in afghanistan and pakistan. i think it's one of the most remarkable stories of our time. clearly, we've gotten good at this. what are the implications of it? one of the things it means is that a lot of the action, if you will, in a war against terrorist organizations, does not take place in afghanistan or pakistan. it takes place, as dull as it seems, in washington, d.c..
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it takes place in cia headquarters, the pentagon, and at the white house. you know, it's funny for me to write a story about a military operation where 90% of the story takes place in washington, d.c., but that's where the story actually unfolded. today, unique, i think, among presidents of the united states, president obama is almost, daily, given a dossier on a target. this is someone in the cross hairs of the cia or the military, and obama or directer petraeus has to make a decision about whether to shoot at that target, whether to take that person out. now, i know that presidents have had to make critically important decisions affecting thousands and hundreds of thousands of lives throughout history of this country, but it seems to me to be a new development for the president of the united states to be deciding on individual
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targets around the world on a regular basis, and i think that that is probably one of the most unique developments in modern war, and that kind of defines right now the nature of the war that we're fighting. obama, when he said that he was, you know, willing to personally take up arms against al-qaeda, is now quite literally doing that, in a sense he has the finger on the trigger and has to make the decision each day almost whether to pull the trigger or not. i think one of the thins i've tried -- things i tried to show is the evolution of his thinking because he's the guy making the calls. go back to 9/11 as i did with the book, obama was interviewed about his reaction to 9/11 shortly after it happened, and his reaction was more like calling for a global welfare
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campaign. he said that he felt the united states should be spending more money to change the hearts and minds of people throughout the middle east to address the underlying roots of islamist extremism and that -- he did mention that he thought it would be worthwhile to dismantle the terrorist organizations that had arranged the attack. mind you, this is at the same time president bush says he wants bin laden dead or alive. vast majority of the american people were not thinking about dismantling al-qaeda, but trashing it, burning it, and hanging it from a high beam. clearly, obama, at that point in life, was very much out of step with the way most americans felt about our response to 9/11. if you look at his speeches and his writing over the next seven to eight years, you see someone firstly legislated to the united states senate and then the
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presidency who is beginning to grapple in a much more direct way than most of us ever have to with the implications of being responsible. for our national security, for making these decisions. it's not been remarked on enough, but it's fairly extraordinary that when he was, i think, very prematurely awarded the nobel peace prize being elected president, he shows up at oslow before the nobel peace committee and delivers what i think is probably the only pro-war speech ever given in acceptance of the nobel peace prize. he argues for the necessity of war, but argues for the necessity of american power and for his responsibility to use american power in the world. i think that was a fairly remarkable speech. that coupled with the fact that there is the remote targeting of
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suspected terrorists says to me that people's expectations about him as a sort of passist leaning president was misguided. he's clearly not that, and nothing shows that more than his decision to go after bin laden. now, when i talk about main characters in the story, forgive me, because i don't think about these things in the way scholars do or maybe that you would doing an analysis for the military. i'm a story teller. to me, i'm interested in the arc of characters in the story. you've got admiral in a wheelchair, months after 9/11, who gets an opportunity to work in the white house as a consultant because somebody's looking out for him because he can't perform physically anymore, but they can use his brain, and as a result, applies
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what he learned in his study of special ops to the problem of al-qaeda. it's not by coincidence he's becoming second in command in iraq and succeeds general mcchrystal as the commander so that when the time comes to launch the mission against bin laden, they are tasked with designing the mission and presenting to the president what he thinks the men can do if that's the option they pursue. a minor character in the story who fascinates me, ben rhodes, a graduate student in nyu with dreams of becoming a novelist, and after the attacks on 9/11, his interests graff gravitated towards the real world. he became a speech writer, worked on capital hill, went to
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work for obama eventually. long story short, was the person in the white house drafting the statement for the the president and was supposed to say what to do if they failed, and there was seriously bad possibilities in launching this mission that had to be worked through and thought about in advance. they thought that was an interesting story line for him, and then, of course, michael's story is interesting being president bush's briefer on 9/11 to rising to the ranks, becoming the chief analyst at the cry later in bush's term was responsible for delivering the decision that hussein was
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harboring weapons of mass destruction. he regards that and understands one of the biggest intelligence failures in america's history and takes ready responsibility for it telling you it haunts him to this day, and it hanted him -- haunted him as he took responsibility for assessing the intelligence over whether the target was bin laden. there's likely hoods all over the map. cia analysts tell him we're 95% sure that that person in the compound is bin laden, and he's got the director saying, well, i say 60%, and he's got analysts from the national center for counterterrorism who put estimates anywhere from 20% to
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40%. aren't you looking at the same information, and it was said, sir, those in the cia had a lot of success in the recent years finding targets, very confident of their confident of their meths and ability reflected in how confident they are in this estimate. then you've got, you know, somebody like me i've been wrong before telling the president i was certain there was weapons of mass destruction in iraq than i am this is bin laden, and given the way i've been burned, i don't care if i'm an eyewitness who told me that bin laden was in the compound, you're not getting more than a 60% assessment out of me.
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ultimately, the president told me that he just felt this amounted to efforts to disguise uncertainty concluding this was a 50 #/50 # call. proceeding on that basis and decided to launch the mission on that basis. now, i think it's amazing, and you heard all kinds of people say, well, this is the decision that anybody would have made in the white house, and i'm not an apoll gist for the obama, but what i can speak about in detail is the way he handled this particular episode and can tell you this was not an easy call, and a couple that were gutsy. one is ultimately the two options waived were firing a small missile at the target, the man called the pacer, observed
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him walking in the compound, a missile the size of the foreman fired from a drone so small i doubt pakistan would have known it flew in and back. there's no downside or risk to the option. no forces put in jeopardy. it's a very reliable weapon, success with it, a fire missile. there's a chance you're not going to hit the target rvetion right? that's the only downside to the option. there's no huge diplomatic fallout. there's a good chance people would never know for sure. well, who killed the man in the compound if they pursued that option? well, i'm thinking, if i'm president of the united states, that's a fairly attractive option. the only downside to that is if
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you miss or kill the wrong person, something you'd like to avoid. on the other hand, sending a seal in pakistan, when you start to think about the ways that could have gone to hell, it's scary, and believe me, they had to think about all the ways that this could go to hell. for one thing, you put american lives at risk, and what happens if they are there and get bogged down? they search the house, they've got a bunch of women that they've captured who essentially tell them that bin laden lives this, but they don't find him anywhere. where is he? they have to start -- they've
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encountered this. they look for fake walls, bunkers, and they end up being bogged down on the site, and the pakistani military wakes up. you have a small force surrounded now. what are they going to do? this is a major international incident in the making, and interestingly, admiral's proposal to the president was if that were to happen, we think we should hunker down in the compound and hold our position and wait for washington to negotiate our extraction, and the president said no. i'm not leaving the men in that position. if you go, you need to be prepared to fight -- we need to be prepared for you to fight the way out. if you go in, you are coming out. we're not going to work things out with pakistan, and so the mission was beefed up forces in
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afghanistan, and there was backup forces on the ready parked just across the border in afghanistan ready to come in and fight. they had air force jets on alert to come in and escort those helicopters out of pakistan if they had to. in other words, the president embraced as part of the decision going to war with pakistan, at least over the one particular episode. now, one of the things that they have to do in the white house is they have to think through all of these options. what are we going to do if we end up shooting down pakistani planes or in a fire fight with the pakistani army, you know, throwing all of these forces in. how do we explain this to the allies? who do we call first? what do we tell the press is going on, you know, all of these things have to be very dlit -- deliberately thought through. it's not like the president didn't consider all the ways it could go bad. despite aural of that, the
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decision to send in the seals was made for the reason that to be sure to take the risk was to have the right target, and the only way to know for sure was to have men on the ground, and the other is there was viable important intelligence at the site that they wanted to pick up. thirdly, the admiral who literally commanded thousands of missions like these reassuring the president that, sir, we can do this. we can get in and get out before, you know, pakistan forces are aroused, and ultimately, as much as obama is characterized as a cool, kind of academic mind, he told me that the decision came down to his confidence in mcraven feeling and trusted that he had a lot of experience with this and reassured him that they could get in and get out.
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we all know the end story. it's interesting in the age, talking about information, in the white house busy weighing in the situation room whether or not to announce that they had killed bin laden that sunday night or wait until monday morning when they would get dna con confirmation because they could image the announcement of killing bin laden, but then turns out you have not. while debating this, as it happens, i was out in los angeles watching the sunday night baseball game between the phillies and the mets, and the crowd chants usa, usa, and the announcer comes on saying we understand the united states has killed osama bin laden, this, an hour and a half before the president walked out to announce it to the world. the notion they could somehow weigh the timing of releasing this information was crazy in
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today's day and age. what happens is as the number of people who know this truth begins to grow, and as soon as those seals step down with the body, you know, there's a lot of folks there who were in and around the facility who got wind of what had just happened, and the tweets start tweeting, you know, and the facebook posts start posting, and before long, they chapter in citizens bank park in philadelphia. that's a lesson to those who want to manage information in today's world. one last thing. you know, i've been doing this for 40 years. this is one of the coolest stories i had an opportunity to write, and for me to sit down with the president for an hour half and pick his mind about this was a rare opportunity, and, you know, being the proi am, i, you know, brought along my tape recorder, microset, and had my questions lined up, had a limited amount of time with the president, and i figured the guy is really a talker.
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if he's off on a tan gent. how do you say, excuse me, mr. president, can you get back on task here? it never had to. he was -- he understood what i was doing. he was extremely direct and helpful and concise in the answers, but as we finished the interview, i looked down, and my tape recorder had failed. it had gone dead at some point. this has never happened to me before. i've been a reporter for 40 years, and when i interview someone and record them, i check it periodically throughout the conversation to ensure it's humming along, you know, and in this case, i have toed a mitt, because it was the -- i have to admit, because it was the president, i was preoccupied with the conversation and the eye contact and failed to check down there. it quit five minutes into the conversation. well, clearly, the most important interview i've got for this book arguably, one of the most important ones i've done, and, boy, talk about an expert
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reporter; right? my recorder fail. as i left the office, ben rhodes was there, and i said, ben, i pan panicked. my recorder died. you know, at some point. he says, oh, don't worry, we record everything in here. we'll get you a transcript before you leave. [laughter] thank you very much. i'll take questions if anybody has any. i think he wants to give you a microphone. we're going to be on booktv also. >> [inaudible] the information coming out about the raid and other intelligence crews we had on the war on terror. as a journalist, i'm sure you don't mind information coming to you to be able to do things like this, but do you find -- in your mind, where's the balance between publicizing success and protecting oaring'sal integrity and future operations where you
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said it's the fire maneuver of the century? >> right. that's a responsibility that i have as a journalist, and i can tell you -- i'm good at this, and i work on the story from the day bin laden was killed, and that would have been a problem for me if someone leaked me something, you know, someone dropped documents on my lap i should not had or called me saying, hey, this is what really happened. then that problem i would have to deal with. no one leaked me anything in the story, much to my chagrin and disappointment. [laughter] here's the deal, you know, that's often not the case. i mean, people have, i think, an exaggerated notion of how often that happens. it doesn't, but, i mean, i feel like there's a very valid and powerful conflict in our society between my role as a journalist and, say, your role as a
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military officer who takes an oath and has a legal responsible if not a moral one to protect secrets. if i, you know, knock on the door and sit down and talk which i did for the book, he knows better than i do on what information needs to be protected and what doesn't. i trust he's not going to willie-nilly tell me things he should not be telling me. he might occasionally say to me, okay, i'll tell you this off the record or i'll tell you this, but come back and see if you can use it. i don't worry about whether i'm spilling secrets. they know what they told me whether it should or shouldn't be printed. i'm there for one reason. i'm going to write this up, and these guys, especially dealing
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with people at high levels of the pentagon, white house, and cia, they are save vie -- savvy in talking to reporters. there's one or two occasions that i had information that i withheld at the request of someone who was a source, and i have, in some instances, gone back saying, are you sure it's okay to write about it? my concern is not to jeopardize nip's -- anyone's lives or blow ongoing operations. beyond that, i feel i take my responsibility seriously. i think in a democracy we have to know as citizens what out of government is doing and how it's doing it to the extent that we can know that because we, ultimately, will make the decisions about what direction we want to go and whether we want to approve or disprove actions we're taking. my job is to find out as much as i can. once i was invited to give a talk at a cia conference. they asked me to talk to them about the battle of mog dee shoe
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which i thought was scary they called a reporter to talk about a significant conflict engagedded in in recent years, and so i said, sure, i'll talk about it. i got a call back the next day from the same guy and he said, i forgot to ask you what your security clearance is. i said, you have to be kidding, i have a negative clearance, i'm a journalist. that's the way that i see it. [laughter] >> sir, as you know, you mentioned on it briefly, drones are a highly debated topic now in government, u.n. poll sicks domestically. how do you weigh in on the ethics of using drone, and then second question, after the killing of bin laden, do you feel al-qaeda is more or less defeated? >> okay. good questions, both.
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on the subject of drones, i think they are the most significant advance in humanitarian warfare in history. i think that because the three principles of a just war are necessity, determination, and proportionality. necessity meaning are the people you are fighting, do you need to fight them? is there a way to deal with bin laden and other than shooting at them or capturing them? i come down strongly on the side of, no, these are irreconcilable. the next two questions are making sure that you're targeting the right people and that you're striking targets with the level of force required and no more; right? now, think about it, drones give you more than any tool in history the ability to make sure
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you are hitting the right target. doesn't mean they don't make mistakes, but you have a better chance of reaching that 100% goal with a drone than you do firing a shell or dropping a bomb or missile, and thirdly, gauge as they try to -- in this mission with bin laden, you know, one of the options presented to the president initially was to bound the compound to smithereens killing every man, woman, child, chicken, dog, and goat within a 5 # 00 yard raid -- 500 yard radius leaving a big smoking hole, and much to the president's credit, he dismissed that immediately. that was a overwhelming use of force to try to target one individual. i think, you know, drones, as i said, are a major advancement in humanitarian warfare. there is a scary side to drones though, and that is if countries can single out and target
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individuals for assassinations basically without risk to personnel or significant direct risk in firing that shot, it makes it attemptingly easy thing to do it seems to me, and as of now, the cia and the directer has not made public the due process they follow to determine who is a legitimate target. how do we decide whether it's appropriate to pull the trigger in this instance? my only criticism of the drone program is that i think we need to become a little more transparent about how we alive at the decisions and how, you know, how those decisions are made because, again, in a democracy, it's very important for the public to understand, you know, what our government is doing in our name. that would be my only, at this point, my only criticism of it.
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the second part of the question with al-qaeda, there's a lot of confusion with al-qaeda because all of these islamist militias throughout the middle east are flying al-qaeda flag now, and they do that to grandize themself and attract recruits, but these folks are no more capable of pulling off something like 9/11 than my local kiwanis club. i can get together with guys down the street and start flying the united states marine corp. flag in my front yard, but that doesn't make me capable of invading taiwan, you know? there was a sophisticated strategy that spent a quarter million dollars that recruited suicide bombers or hijackers from all over the world, transported them to the united states, got them flight training, steered them all on to those aircraft at the precisely coordinated times. that was one of the most extraordinarily sophisticated
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terrorist operations in history. that organization is all but dead in my opinion, and not just my opinion. i think, in fact, it was all but dead when bin laden was killed, but i think the death of bin laden was a capstone on that effort. frankly, it's one of the reasons i called the book "the finish" because the strategy is finished, and this is the finished piece of it, but also because i think this was the finish to that al-qaeda. the problem of terrorism is never going to go away, but unless we fall asleep at the switch, these kind of organizations are -- there's fewer of them today than ten years allege. >> there was an interesting editorial written recently on the politicalization of the
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osama bin laden mission and criticism in the election year about that, but could you restate what you wrote in the article on the myths -- >> of the mission? >> yeah. >> in the days bin laden was killed, there was an unable level of excitement if the cia, white house, and the pentagon. it was a huge success. people were involved like john brennan whoing, i -- who, i think, went overboard in talking about, engaged in hunting bin laden for more than 15 years. you can understand the visceral sense of excitement and accomplishment that folks felt, and that was also a tremendous amount of excitement in the country, and a clammor for information, and so as often
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happens in these cases, and, in fact, going as far to say, always happens in these circumstances, individuals on the white house staff, pentagon staff, talked more than they should have about what happened. in that sense, i don't mean they gave away -- i don't think they gave away important national secrets, but they did deliver misinformation. they characterized the seal raid as an intense fire fight, and it was not. when they hit the house, they were fired upon once. a burst of inaccurate fire. they returned fire. they don't do inaccurate fire so the guy who shot at them died. after that, there was no more shooting except the seals. methodically going through the house, room by room, and i think the fate of any adult male in that house was sealed as soon as they were fired upon because they can't wait around to see whether the next guy they
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encounter opens up on them. they went through the house, great discernment, shot every adult male in the house, with one exception accidently shot the wife of one of the men so, you know, to characterize that, that sort of systematic going through the house and whacking people as a fire fight was a stretch. one of the other things brennan said was, again, reflecting towards ben laden that he was living this life of luxury. i don't know about you, but if somebody locked me in the upper two floors of a house with 12 children and three wives for five years, i wouldn't call that luxury living myself. you know, it's apparently the wives didn't get along well with one another, and bin laden, i mean, you can accuse the guy of a lot of things, mass murder among them, but he was never one to go for the good life. he hundreded air-conditioning and refrigerators.
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he saw himself as a holy warrior, living in preparation to be taken to the hill at all times, and he had a romantic notion of himself. there were other ones. one of the myths -- one which i addressed was somehow the administration was leaking information will hi [laughter] nilly, and, boy, i it say, i wish. it was one of the most frustrating efforts of my life to get people to talk to me about this, and no one was handing any anything. the biggest leak about this whole operation came from the sale who wrote his book about the mission. he has argued he has not leaked any secret information. well, i mean, if he hasn't, and he leaked tons more than anybody else. i don't know what they are claiming others did, but all i know is i got left out while all the leaks were distributed. what was one of the other ones?
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i lose track. >> [inaudible] >> oh, that it was a close call. that was one. you know, there was a lot about how divided the president's staff was. you heard me talk about the fact i think this was a seriously gutsy move on the part of the president, but it was not him acting alone against the advice of the advisers. everyone advising him wanted him to target the person other than joe biden, in fact, probably the person most publicly claiming how -- what a smart move it was was the guy in the room saying, no, mr. president, you shouldn't do this, wait, we need more intelligence, and being his runningmate was the one guy in the room delivering political advice under the circumstances, which, as you know, you will not be elected again if this goes down the toilet. everybody else -- one interesting thin is secretary gates who advocated shooting the missile at the pacer instead of sending in the seals got back to
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the office, and two deputieses dragged him into the office saying, boss, we think you're wrong about this, and basically beat him up for an hour until he called back to the white house to say i want to change my vote so he changed his mind after that. those were some of the things i wrote about. >> in the war of afghanistan winds down and the army downsizes, there's debate going on as to what the composition of the future army should look like. the bin laden raid is a good example of the effectiveness of special operations and that it can strike at notary public-state actors anywhere in the world. where do you believe big army operations belong in the war against international terrorism? >> wow, good question. i don't know that there's much of a call in fighting terrorism in having large forces, but there's other threats that our
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country could conceivably face, and it would be a mistake to, you know, decide we're never going to have to fight any significant war, any manpowerred war again. clearly, there's scenarios where that could happen. history is ripe with examples of points where, you know, the leadership of the country is, oh, we'll never have to fight a war again, take apart the navy and the army, and them only to discover they've got a rapidly try to ramp back up. you know, i'm not enough of an expert on military issues to have done any kind of a broad assessment of what all the potential threats are, but i think the most likely, frankly, the most likely threats we face as a nation right now are cyber attacks and terrorist atags -- attacks that sort of overlap. right now, it's hard to envision going to war with china over taiwan or, you know, having to go to korea to fight back, you know, invasion of south korea, but these things can happen.
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i think it would be a mistake for us not to be adequately prepared for the possibility. >> to follow on that and the technology piece earlier, it's interesting, we can be enamored with the potential of drones, the ability to do this, but both talking about the -- can we push too far, the ability of technology, consider 15 years of hunting osama bin laden, is that possible with drones and small groups of people in the cia floating around the world, but how much of this is getting inside that information is dependent on the massive amount of human resources that we're on the ground toot that? you're talking about passing notes and couriers. drones will not find couriers or e-mails, and the critical information fed into the computer was collected not by
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passive active computing, but by actual hands so tieing into that, how poll is it to combat terrorism or combat any threat if not fixed on a map and large army if we don't have via partners or allies, if we don't have human beings on the ground to get inside that information loop or exploit it, then what's the point? >> yeah, well, i mean, the -- i think that you're clearly righting and one of the major steps i didn't emphasize it enough in developing this targeting engine that we have now have been, you know, the reconstitution of human spy networks all over the world. fortunately, the cost of those kinds of intelligence operations is nothing compared to the cost of, you know, adding five nuclear submarines to the military budget so, i mean, it's a separate question really. i think we can maintain a very
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robust intelligence collection and analysis process in our military without breaking the budget. in fact, i think it's one of the more economical ways of getting the most out of our military force, but i think more to the point of the cadets question when we think along the lines, you don't want to toss out the idea of having, you know, an army to, you know, go to war if we need to, even though we may not have a clear example in our mind of how we might have to use them, but you could not be more right. i mean, i really do think that we made a big mistake as a country, and i lived through it, during the 1970s with all this animosity towards the cia and the idea of intelligence work and intelligence collection. clearly, we've recovered from that era m one of the funny things in the story is a lifelong cia guy, as he was
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leaving the white house the night of the bin laden was killed hear the crowds chaptering "cia, cia," and he said, man, i never thought i would hear that anywhere in america. [laughter] if you lived through the mcgovern, eagleton year, the church committee years in the 1970s, it's amazing how much we rebounded our appreciation for the need of intelligence collection on the ground and in the air. >> [inaudible] >> sir, you mentioned the national security apparatus have become very adept at targeting and destroying terrorist networks. do you think that with the war in afghanistan winding down and the country trying to smooth out its budget, do you think we'll be able to retain that same level of competency in finding and destroying the networks? >> yeah, i do. i don't think they are the most
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costly items in the budget. in fact, they are coast effective, and i think we've -- cost effective, and i think we've developed such a high level of expertise, in many cases, with young people who just enlisted ten years ago or signed on to the cia ten years ago who now accumulated a tremendous amount of experience. i thought we're going to lose that capability any time soon, and i think that we are going to continue to need it so i would be very surprised to see that erode drastically. there was a story on page 1 of "new york times" today questioning whether we would be able to maintain the same high level of vigilance all over the place. if i had to answer the question, i would say i don't see it as all that threatening. that is one thing that everybody gets, i think. okay. >> i think we've reached the end of the allotted time for comments. thanks for all the great question. >> yeah, thank you. >> thank you very much,
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mr. bowden, for coming to speak to us today. >> sure, my pleasure. [applause] >> [inaudible] >> of course. ..

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